Head-To-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)

Head-To-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana), (jaa-nu-shee-r-shee-suh-nuh)

janu (knee) + sirsa (head) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Seated head to knee pose

Pose Type: Stretching, Seated, Stress Relief, Restorative, Menstruation

Difficulty: Beginner

a man wearing black yoga clothes doing head to knee pose

Twist your spine and lengthen the backs of your legs with a calming Head To Knee Pose

Head-To-Knee Pose Fundamentals

Head-To-Knee pose is a restorative forward fold that provides a deep physical and mental release. This restorative asana stretches the entire back body, from the ankle to the neck. As a front bend, it helps to relax your mind, slow down your thoughts, and bring a sense of tranquility. 

Often, the ego can take over in this pose, which may lead us to start pushing or forcing. It’s important to know touching the knee with your forehead is not the goal of the pose. Instead, focus on becoming aware of your breath and strive to calm your mind. The physical benefits of the pose are also greater if you enter it with attention and only to your true capacity. Flexibility will come over time, and is not the primary goal. 

When practiced with care, this pose can become very comfortable, even for beginners or inflexible students. It helps release physical and energetic blocks, and with this, can also help clear any pent-up emotions. 

Janu Sirsasana activates the Root (Muladhara) chakra, which may bring a sense of inner power and confidence, stability, security, and strength. 

Head-To-Knee Pose Benefits

  • Stretches the hamstrings, shoulders, spine, groins, neck, and abdominal muscles. 
  • Helps improve posture over time, and can be restorative for those who are sitting for long hours.
  • The hamstring stretch may be helpful in recovery after running or similar activities. 
  • Stimulates internal organs and may help with digestion.
  • Relaxes the mind and the body, and may ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
  • Reduces sciatica by increasing the supply of fresh blood to the sciatic nerve.
a gif of a man doing head to knee pose

How To Do Head-To-Knee Pose: Step-By-Step

How To Get There:

1. Begin sitting on the mat in Staff Pose, with both legs extended in front of you. Pull the flesh from your buttocks away to the sides to make sure your sit bones are anchored in the ground.

2. Bend your right knee, and bring the foot close to your groin, next to the inner left thigh. 

3. Use your arms to straighten your torso, so it’s in line with your extended leg. Then turn your pelvis forward to initiate the movement from the hips and walk your hands forward, to slowly bring your torso down. Keep your spine long. 

4. Keep your left foot flexed. When you reach your maximum forward bend, try grasping your left foot with one or both arms. You have a choice to stay in an active position with your spine straight or in a passive variation with a rounded back. Both versions are correct.

5. Hold the pose for 3 to 5 breaths. 

6. Lift your torso, and release your right leg to the Staff pose. Then repeat the pose on the other side. 

Tips And Tricks:

  • If it’s difficult for you to tilt the pelvis forward or if your hips feel stiff, sit on a block or a folded blanket. That will also help you to keep your spine long.
  • Fold from the hips instead of the lower back. Propping yourself on a cushion will help you with this, but you can also increase the bend in your knee.
  • Any type of pushing or forcing may lead to injury. The safest and the most beneficial way to practice this pose is going only up to a point where you feel a comfortable stretch, but no pain. 
  • Use your breath to guide you. With every inhale, lengthen your spine, with every exhale, try to fold deeper.

Head-To-Knee Pose Variation:

Head-To Knee Pose Variation: Use Props

a man wearing black yoga clothes doing head to knee pose with a blanket under his knee

There are multiple standard variations with props for the Head-To-Knee pose. 

If the knee of the extended leg feels stiff and isn’t completely straight, you can place a pillow beneath. This will make the pose safer for the knee and will make it easier for you to bend forward. 

To correct the alignment in your lower back, especially if your back or hips feel stiff, then prop your hips up on a block or a folded blanket. 

If reaching your feet is not available, you can also loop a strap around the foot of the extended leg. You can then use the strap to pull yourself deeper in the stretch, without compromising your form. 

Head-To-Knee Pose Variation: Yin Yoga Half Butterfly 

The Half Butterfly pose from the Yin school of yoga is virtually the same as Head-To-Knee Pose.

However, the difference is in the approach to practice. In classic yoga, you’re keeping your muscles active in the stretch, and in Yin Yoga, you are practicing with cold muscles and holding the pose for between 3 and 5 minutes instead of only a couple of breaths.

If practicing in this manner, make sure to find a suitable edge, which is naturally much less deep than when your body is warm. In the yin variation, it is also good to utilize props, like placing a pillow beneath your belly to support your body without engaging the muscles. 

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

Collapsing the back. Although this pose is a forward bend, you should still strive to keep your chest open. The goal is to reach the chest close to the thigh, rather than touching the knee with the forehead. 

Keep the spine straight in the beginning. After you’ve reached your edge with a straight spine, you can round it. Both variations are correct, but the variation with a straight spine will target your muscles differently than when you round your back. 

Don’t force yourself into the pose. This is especially common when practicing with a strap. Forcing yourself will round your back too soon, and may cause pain.  

Back or Knee Injury

If you have a serious or recent back or knee injury, avoid this pose. The pose also may not be suitable if you have chronic or severe lower back pain, as it is easy to overestimate your flexibility in this pose, which may worsen your condition.  There are some precautions you can take to keep practicing the asana with an injured knee, however, it would be best to do so under supervision from an experienced teacher. 

Related Poses

Seated Forward Fold

Butterfly Pose

Revolved Head-To-Knee Pose

Preparatory Poses:

Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Bound Angle Pose

Standing Forward Bend Pose

Counter Poses:

Upward Plank Pose

Hero Pose

Fish Pose

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

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